Tag Archives: The Arts

SOS FOR SAN ISIDRO MOVEMENT HUNGER STRIKERS IN HAVANA

Havana Times, November 26, 2020

Original Article: SOS San Isidro Cuba

HAVANA TIMES – Numerous Cuban civil society organizations as well as regional and other international groups and individuals are calling for action to preserve the life of several hunger strikers of the San Isidro Movement in the Cuban capital.

The demands include the release of rapper Denis Solis from prison and an end to the flagrant human rights violations. The statement issued on Thursday morning also draws attention to the continuous repression and arbitrary movement restrictions on journalists and independent media.

Urgent Call to Preserve the Lives of the Hunger Strikers at the Headquarters of the San Isidro Movement

The undersigned – international and Cuban civil society organizations, members of Cuban independent media, activists, and Cuban citizens – condemn the harassment, police violence, human rights violations, and repressive acts perpetrated by Cuban authorities against artists, journalists, and independent civil society actors in response to peaceful demonstrations against the arrest and subsequent arbitrary conviction of the musician and member of Movimiento San Isidro (MSI), Denis Solís González.

We, therefore, urge Cuban authorities to act in accordance with their obligation to preserve the life and health, and safety of the 14 activists at the MSI headquarters since November 16, demanding the release of the musician Denis Solis González.

On November 9, 2020, Denis Solís González was brutally detained by agents of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) in the Habana Vieja municipality, a few blocks from his home. Since then, there has been no communication with the musician, and attempts to gather information on his whereabouts through official channels were unsuccessful. According to international standards, Solís González has been forcibly disappeared.

Upon arrest, the acting agents failed to present a valid arrest warrant, inform Solis Gonzalez of his charges and instruct him on his rights as a defendant.

As detailed in the judicial order in response to the Habeas Corpus filed on November 10, he was sentenced in under 72 hours to eight  months of deprivation of liberty for the crime of “contempt” without receiving the most basic guarantees of due process. Additionally, on November 11, he was transferred to the maximum-security prison in Valle Grande.

Between November 10 and 18, there have been 34 arbitrary arrests of 20 individuals documented, alongside surveillance operations intended to prevent free movement and internet service blocks for artists, activists and journalists peacefully demonstrating for the release of Denis Solís. The various peaceful protests demanding the release of the musician have resulted in an escalation of violence.

Since November 16, approximately 14 activists, artists and journalists have congregated at the MSI headquarters, under siege from state security forces. At first, MSI was barred access. In response, they organized a poetic reading at the headquarters. Later, following the theft of their food, a few activists began a hunger strike. Finally, a substance that they suspect is hydrochloric acid, was thrown onto the door and roof of the headquarters, damaging their water supply.

It is important to highlight the information lockdown that has been implemented. Journalists and activists in solidarity with MSI have been prevented from leaving their homes for at least nine days. There have also been attacks on foreign press and arrests of independent journalists, who on November 22, sought to cover the demonstrations and/or meetings organized throughout the central parks of Havana.

Given the facts presented, the undersigned organizations urgently call upon the Cuban government to allow the International Red Cross entry so they can respond to the request for assistance MSI has issued over the past two days.

We also demand that the Cuban government declare the criminal proceedings against Denis Solis González void and proceed with his immediate release. We hope they respond to the call for dialogue from members of Movimiento San Isidro in order to protect the lives of the activists.

We also demand that the government allow citizens to exercise their right to peacefully protest and that the harassment and digital interference against those who participate in or carry out journalistic coverage of these events cease. It is indefensible, that the Cuban State, recently elected to occupy a place on the United Nations Human Rights Council, should engage in this type of systematic infraction of human rights in flagrant violation of all relevant international agreements and standards.

We also demand that the High Commissioner of the United Nations, Michelle Bachelet, condemn the multiple human rights violations perpetrated by agents of the Cuban State against the people engaging in legitimate protest at the Movimiento San Isidro headquarters.

We call on embassies, the European Union, and the special procedures of the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, to firmly communicate to the Cuban State their condemnation and concern regarding these events, and urge it to assume its obligations to guarantee and protect human rights, especially as a member of the United Nations Human Rights Council.

SIGNED:

Regional Organizations

Alianza Regional por la Libre Expresión e Información

DemoAmlat

Red Latinoamericana y del Caribe para la Democracia (REDLAD)

Red Latinoamericana de Jóvenes por la Democracia (JuventudLAC)

IFEX-ALC

Voces del Sus

Cuban Civil Society Organizations

Alianza Cubana por la Inclusión

Alianza Democrática Pinareña Vueltabajo por Cuba.

Asociación Civil Crecer en Libertad

Asociación Jurídica Cubana

Asociación Cubana para la Divulgación del Islam

Asociación Sindical Independiente de Cuba

Asociación Pro Libertad de Prensa

Center for a Free Cuba

Centro de Estudios Convivencia

Centro PEN de Escritores Cubanos en el Exilio

Club de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba

Comité de Ciudadanos por la Integración Racial (CIR)

Colegio de Pedagogos Independientes de Cuba (CPIC)

Centro Estudios Liderazgo y Desarrollo

Comunidad Judía Bnei Anusim de Cuba

Confederación Obrera Nacional Independiente de Cuba (CONIC)

Cubalex

Cuba Independiente y Democrática (CID)

Damas de Blanco

Democuba

Directorio Democrático Cubano

Monitor Legislativo Cubano

Libertad Cuba Lab

Grupo Demongeles

Grupo Anima

Fundación para la Democracia Panamericana

Fundación Nacional Cubano Americana

La Maleza

Libertad Cuba Lab

Instituto de Activismo Hannah Arendt

Instituto Cubano por la Libertad de Expresión y Prensa – ICLEP

Instituto Patmos

Instituto La Rosa Blanca

Iglesia Misionera en Cuba

Movimiento Apostólico“Viento Recio”

Movimiento Ciudadano Reflexión y Reconciliación (MCRR)

Movimiento Opositores por una  Nueva República

Mesa de Diálogo de la Juventud Cubana

Mujeres Democristianas de Cuba

Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos

Palabra Abierta

Proyecto Demócrata Cubano (PRODECU)

Partido Arco Progresista

Partido Autónomo Pinero

Partido Pedro Luis Boitel

Partido Demócrata Cristiano de Cuba

Plataforma Independiente para el Desarrollo Universitario

Puente a la Vista

Red Femenina de Cuba

Red de Líderes y Lideresas Comunitarios (RELLIC)

Somos +

Solidaridad Trabajadores de Cuba

Talento Cubano

Unión Patriótica de Cuba (UNPACU)

Mujer a Mujer

 PLUS: 

37 International Civil Society Organizations including PEN Internacional;

21 Independent Media

42 Cuban Activists and Citizens

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CUBAN POLICE RAID HQ OF DISSIDENT SAN ISIDRO MOVEMENT

BBC, 17 November 2020

BBC, 17 November 2020

Original Article: Cuban police raid HQ of dissident San Isidro Movement

A Cuban dissident group says police have raided its HQ in the capital, Havana, detaining members on hunger strike over the jailing of a rapper.

The San Isidro Movement said some people were beaten, and social media was temporarily shut down to stop images of the raid being shared online.

Rapper Denis Solis was sentenced after a row with a police officer.

Cuban authorities said the raid was carried out over a health violation related to coronavirus.

The San Isidro Movement has gained international attention recently.

Founded in 2018, many of its members are artists, musicians, journalists and academics who oppose what they call oppressive measures by Cuba’s communist government.

The movement told BBC Mundo that its HQ – an apartment in the capital – was raided on Thursday night. About an hour after midnight local time (05:00 GMT Friday), the group said three of the 14 people detained were out of contact. Six members have been on hunger strike.

The group is demanding the release of Solis, who was sentenced to eight months in jail for contempt after a verbal altercation with a police officer.

In a statement, Cuban authorities said they carried out the San Isidro raid because a journalist, Carlos Manuel Álvarez, had broken security protocols related to the spread of coronavirus, and was taking part in protests at the building.

“This action took place in full compliance with the law and without violating the citizen rights of any of those involved,” the statement read.

The San Isidro group called it an “absurd” pretext.

The movement has often stirred controversy by mixing art with political activism. As a symbol of civil disobedience, one its members, Maykel Castillo, sewed up his mouth after being summoned by police for questioning.

Human rights NGOs and the US state department have called for Denis Solis to be released, and for the government to engage in dialogue with the San Isidro Movement.

The Cuban government alleges that he and the movement are funded by Washington and are being used to subvert the state. The San Isidro Movement has denied these allegations.

These protests, although unrelated, come amid severe economic strain in Cuba over the global coronavirus pandemic.

See also: SOS FOR SAN ISIDRO MOVEMENT HUNGER STRIKERS IN HAVANA

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TO BE A WRITER IN CUBA

Yvon Grenier

Literal: Latin American Voices, April 2016

 Original Article: To be a writer in Cuba

Y wwwww wwwwwwThe methodology of Leonardo Padura

Soy un escritor, en lo fundamental, de la vida cubana, y la política no puede estar fuera de esa vida, pues es parte diaria, activa, penetrante de ella; pero yo la manejo de manera que sea el lector quien decida hacer las asociaciones políticas, sin que mis libros se refieran directamente a ella. De verdad, no la necesito ni me interesa, pero, en cambio, me interesa muchísimo que mis libros puedan ser leídos en Cuba y que la gente pueda dialogar con ellos.

 Leonardo Padura Cubaencuentro, 19 December 2008

“People think that what I say is a measure of what can or can’t be said in Cuba,” Leonardo Padura once stated in an interview with Jon Lee Anderson.  In fact, what he says is a measure of what he—along with some other Cuban writers or artists—is allowed to say in Cuba. It is a privilege, not a right.  Lesser authors who don’t enjoy his international fame (and Spanish passport) probably couldn’t have published a book like El hombre que amaba los perros, as he did in 2010, a year after it was edited in Spain by Tusquets. In fact, the book probably wouldn’t have appeared at all in Cuba decades or even years ago, which makes him the beneficiary (and the confirmation) of a recent openness. The government grants Padura some recognition (he won the National Literature Prize in 2012), as well as some privileges commonly bestowed on successful writers and artists: he can travel and publish abroad, and he can accept monetary compensation in foreign currency. But he is kept in a box. His books are nearly impossible to find on the island. The prestigious awards and accolades he is receiving abroad are mostly glossed over by the Cuban media. Finally, his insightful but politically cautious journalism is read all over the world, but not in Cuba (save for a few exceptions).

Numerous times Padura has made clear his desire to live in the house his father built in Mantilla, a working class municipality on the outskirts of Havana. He sometimes signs his articles, “Leonardo Padura, Still in Mantilla.” He also wants to be a “Cuban writer,” and as such, he feels he has “a certain responsibility because our reality is so specific and so hard for many people.” A genuine writer cannot be a mouthpiece for the government. Padura’s success in conciliating these two potentially conflicting ambitions—to be a writer who lives and work in Cuba—is, as John Lee Anderson put it, “a tribute both to his literary achievement and his political agility.” Blogger Yoani Sánchez wrote, “His ‘rarity’ lies fundamentally in having been able to sustain a critical vision of his country, an unvarnished description of the national sphere, without sacrificing the ability to be recognized by the official sectors. The praise comes to him from every direction of the polarized ideological spectrum of the Island, which is a true miracle of letters and of words.” This is why Padura is often seen as a sort of experiment on how to express freedom in a land bereft of freedom of expression.

Conclusion

Rather than pushing for more room for expression, Padura’s method seems to be to occupy all the space available without crossing any red lines. This has allowed him to elude the fate that befell so many writers in Cuba. His criticism of many aspects of Cuban society is achieved without directly addressing the political system in Cuba. This method works, in the sense that it provides him with basic guidelines to practice his métier in Cuba. Padura is not an exponent of the “art for art’s sake” viewpoint. He wants to talk about the “reality” in Cuba, but without acting like an activist for change. He cultivates a “practice of social and human introspection that occasionally reaches politics, but that does not part from there..” But one wonders, what happens when it comes to politics, “cuando llega a la política”? The answer is: not much, because he can’t go there and continue living and working in Mantilla. Living and working in Cuba is most valuable not only for him, but also for his readers. In one of his essays entitled “I would like to be Paul Auster,” he complains that he would love not to be constantly asked about politics in his country and how and why he continues to live there. But this is very much his niche: he is widely seen as the best writer in Cuba. He offers us an off-the-beaten path view of a relatively closed society, one that is free of propaganda if not entirely free tout court. No writer could attain global respectability producing a prose laden with official propaganda. By occupying a small but significant critical space in Cuba, Padura becomes more interesting for Cuba observers and more intriguing for students of cultural and literary trends on the island. In this sense, he may be compared to authors and artists who produce somewhat critical material under dictatorial regimes, like Ismael Kadaré (Albania-France) or Murong Xuecon (China) —he is closer, in fact, to the former than the latter.

In sum, Leonardo Padura found a sweet spot that has allowed him to navigate the tumultuous waters of censorship while searching for (and finding) his own voice. He has managed to become, as one observer wrote, “perhaps the foremost chronicler of the island.” Does he (and do his readers) pay too high a price for his privilege to write “from Mantilla”? Would he be more valuable to us, and a better writer, in exile?

Continue Reading: Yvon Grenier, TO BE A WRITER IN CUBA

Yvon Grenier teaches and writes on Comparative politics, Latin American politics (esp. Cuba, Mexico and Central America), Art /literature and politics, as well as political violence.He is also a Contributing Editor for Literal  as well as an occasional  political commentator for Radio Canada/CBC. His Twitter is @ygrenier1

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THE BUENA VISTA ECONOMIC EFFECT

A genre of music once sidelined as “A decadent relic of the past” that came back to “Rescue” *   the Revolution.

 By Anthony Smith, December 14, 2015

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Buena Vista Social Club, the musical phenomenon that initially captured the world’s attention around 1997, is in the midst of its final world tour. Although several of the stalwarts of the group have since passed away, the remaining members, along with an injection of new blood are giving fans a good show. The unlikely rise of these musicians came at the height of the special period, giving Cuban cultural tourism an unexpected boost when it was limping along following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Although Cuba has always punched above its weight in the area of music, this was the most improbable of scenarios at a time of utter desperation.

The success of Buena Vista on multiple fronts (CD, concerts and a documentary), led a lot of individuals across the world to visit Cuba. On the island, Cubans themselves knew little about Buena Vista, and the younger generations were largely indifferent to the music. Cuban musicians were initially surprised by foreign tourists requesting songs that they did not know, but they quickly caught on, learning songs like “Chan Chan.” There was also a boom in new groups forming to play exclusively for tourists, though it soon became obvious that they had a repertoire that was largely limited to the ones made popular by Buena Vista Social Club. They could play hits from the past like “Quizas, quizas,” but not “Me voy pa’l pueblo” or “La runidera” because they were not among those that the members of Buena Vista had included in their various albums.

Now largely unknown by many and overlooked by a few, is the reasoning that led these musicians into obscurity. Throughout history, revolutions have upended societies and sought to reshape them, and Cuba was no different. There is little doubt that Cuba needed a revolution in 1959. The existence of a mafia state, gambling, rampant corruption, abject poverty, drugs and prostitution created conditions ripe for sweeping change. As relations with the US deteriorated, Cuba entered a degree of isolation, defections and a looming cold war that changed everything internally. Music, art and culture were soon expected to toe the party line. The worst times were in the so called “El quinquenio gris,” a five year gray period (1968-73) where there was severe repression in the arts and culture. The air of uncertainty led writers, poets, artists and musicians to play it safe in their work, for fear of running afoul of rules and regulations that were deliberately ill-defined to create an atmosphere of indecision and self- censorship.

Looking back, there is little doubt that the arts were unfair victims of this purge. State resources were directed towards other, newer forms of music. The individuals that had burgeoning careers in pre- Castro Cuban and remained in Cuba were sidelined as the revolution sought to create new sounds. Ruben Gonzalez said that he had not played a piano in well over a decade at the time he was invited to play for Buena Vista Social Club. Ibrahim Ferrer was for all intents and purposes retired, shining shoes to make some extra money. Compay Segundo had composed the song “Chan Chan” as early as 1987, but did not get the chance to record it in studio until 1995. This is not to say that Cubans were devoid of musical choices. A lot of new artists like Silvio Rodriguez and Pablo Milanes did emerge, as did forms of music like Nueva Trova and Timba, but their emergence came at the expense of the older musicians that had established careers in 1959.

A lot of criticism has been directed at the lack of authenticity of Buena Vista Social Club, and it’s over reliance on marketing and neo-colonial nostalgia for the past. However valid that criticism may be, when it comes down to the dollars and cents, Buena Vista beat Timba, Nueva Trova, Latin Jazz, Reggaeton and all others as a selling point. If anything, Cuba failed to fully capitalize on the Buena Vista craze at its peak over a decade ago. Commemorative and limited edition T-shirts, cups, rum, coffee and even cigars would have brought in additional millions in revenue from foreign tourists.

Finally, it should not be forgotten that Buena Vista Social Club happened in spite of, and not because of the Cuban revolution.

*The word “Rescue” is frequently used to describe attempts to resuscitate and rebuild various parts of Cuban society in the economic decline that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Anthony Smith is an amateur Cuban historian and lover of all things Cuba. He has made his living as a consumer rights advocate, a professional fundraiser, a political activist and in the food service industry

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